I was, of course, careful not to give Juno the pleasure of seeing that she had surprised me. I bowed, and continued in silence to sip a little coffee; then, setting my coffee down, I observed that it would be some few days yet before the resignation could take effect; and, noticing that Juno was getting ready some new remark, I branched off and spoke to her of my excursion up the river this morning to see the azaleas in the gardens at Live Oaks.
“How lucky the weather is so magnificent!” I exclaimed.
“I shall be interested to hear,” said Juno, “what explanation he finds to give Miss Josephine for his disrespectful holding out against her, and his immediate yielding to Miss Rieppe.”
Here I deemed it safe to ask her, was she quite sure it had been at the instance of Miss Rieppe that John had resigned?
“It follows suspiciously close upon her arrival,” stated Juno. She might have been speaking of a murder. “And how he expects to support a wife now—well, that is no affair of mine,” Juno concluded, with a washing-her-hands-of-it air, as if up to this point she had always done her best for the wilful boy. She had blamed him savagely for not resigning, and now she was blaming him because he had resigned; and I ate my breakfast in much entertainment over this female acrobat in censure.
No more was said; I think that my manner of taking Juno’s news had been perfectly successful in disappointing her. John’s resignation, if it had really occurred, did certainly follow very close upon the arrival of Hortense; but I had spoken one true thought in intimating that I doubted if it was due to the influence of Miss Rieppe. It seemed to me to the highest degree unlikely that the boy in his present state of feeling would do anything he did not wish to do because his ladylove happened to wish it—except marry her! There was apparently no doubt that he would do that. Did she want him, poverty and all? Was she, even now, with eyes open, deliberately taking her last farewell days of automobiles and of steam yachts? That voice of hers, that rich summons, with its quiet certainty of power, sounded in my memory. “John,” she had called to him from the automobile; and thus John had gone away in it, wedged in among Charley and the fat cushions and all the money and glass eyes. And now he had resigned from the Custom House! Yes, that was, whatever it signified, truly amazing—if true.
So I continued to ponder quite uselessly, until the up-country bride aroused me. She, it appeared, had been greatly carried away by the beauty of Live Oaks, and was making her David take her there again this morning; and she was asking me didn’t I hope we shouldn’t get stuck? The people had got stuck yesterday, three whole hours, right on a bank in the river; and wasn’t it a sin and a shame to run a boat with ever so many passengers aground? By the doctrine of chances, I informed her, we had every right to hope for better luck to-day; and, with the assurance of how much my felicity was increased by the prospect of having her and David as company during the expedition, I betook myself meanwhile to my own affairs, which meant chiefly a call at the Exchange to inquire for Eliza La Heu, and a visit to the post-office before starting upon a several hours’ absence.